Floor to ceiling windows with stunning views, onsite fitness centres, an assistant to do your dry cleaning and an artist in residence to inspire creativity… these are just a few of the perks you can find at some of the world’s leading workplaces.

But while having an inviting lap pool or an on-site doctor might seem like a dream come true in a workplace, what if you actually don’t like swimmingall that much, or you’re quite attached to the family doctor you’ve been seeing since you were 12?

Professor Cheri OstroffLeaders, human resource practitioners and employees are all in search of the holy grail, the perfect work-place. But according to Professor Cheri Ostroff there is no such thing. 

The UniSA Chair in Management says while certain perks and benefits may sweeten the deal for some employees, a good workplace comes down to a good match between the employee and the organisation – coined person-organisation fit – and there is no ‘one size fits all’. 

There is, however, one key element that features across all good workplaces – they put a priority on their employees’ wellbeing. 

“If you think about the best places to work, one of the things they all have in common is employee wellbeing – treating employees well, being supportive and creating a good work environment for them,” Prof Ostroff says.  

“But how workplaces cater for employee wellbeing can vary dramatically, and that’s where organisational fit comes in – what meets one type of employees’ needs won’t necessarily meet another. 

“One example is a company called Lincoln Electric, headquartered in the United States. They have among the highest paid manufacturing employees in the world, and in many ways they have a gruesome work environment – there’s no paid holidays or sick days, and the number of quality output produced determines pay. But for these employees, their needs are met through an extraordinarily high pay and bonuses.  

“It’s an extreme example but it shows a company that is meeting its employees’ needs in a different way.

“Then there are companies that have a thriving team culture where everyone gets a membership at the same country club, employees and families have access to a massive gymnasium and there are big communal spaces in the workplace filled with treats. 

“Your every need can be met on-site – there are people to pick up your dry cleaning and an on-site health care clinic available. 

“Again, this is not going to be a happy environment for everyone – some people don’t want that intensity of commitment; the ‘we’re so committed to you so you have to be that committed to us’ mentality.  It’s not for everyone, but for some employees that will enhance their wellbeing.” 

Dr Silvia PignataUniSA Program Director and work and organisational psychology researcher, Dr Silvia Pignata agrees that employee wellbeing is at the heart of good workplaces. Her PhD examined how stress interventions can impact on employees’ psychological wellbeing and work attitudes. While her focus was on staff members at universities, she says the results are applicable across many workplaces. 

“My key finding was that staff who felt that their organisation cared about them and cared about their wellbeing, were the ones who were more committed to the organisation and had higher levels of job satisfaction,” she says. 

“Employees who are happy are also more motivated and more productive at work. If employees are stressed, they’re more likely to get sick and productivity declines.” 

Dr Pignata identified a number of stress intervention strategies that could be implemented at an organisational level to improve employee wellbeing. 

“The research showed that organisations that provided clear methods of reward and recognition, offered training and development opportunities and had good communication and consultation processes also had employees who felt valued at their workplace,” she says.  

“Support across all levels of the organisation also has a big impact – employees who believed they were supported by their organisation, by their managers or by their colleagues were less stressed and enjoyed their work environment much more.” 

Both researchers conclude that a good workplace is one that looks after its employees’ wellbeing, and that’s not necessarily about a fitness centre with the latest equipment or the option to take a paid sabbatical – unless of course that’s the thing that motivates you.

So what can you do to make sure you find yourself in a good workplace, particularly if we’re all looking at being in the workforce longer than ever before? 

Prof Ostroff says the logical starting point is for people to think about what’s important to them. 

“People often think about the job in terms of the industry sector, the skillset required or the salary, but they often don’t think about the other aspects that might also be important to them,” Prof Ostroff says. 

“People need to think more about the factors that motivate them – do they like teamwork or autonomy, do they like guidance and mentoring? – these things are quite important for job satisfaction.

“I’d encourage everyone to think first about their own characteristics, and what their own values and needs are, and then start to research companies that might be the dream workplace for them.”  

Find out more about UniSA’s leadership and people research at the The Centre for Human Resource Management website.